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Sunday, September 8, 2013

African American Soldiers and Sailors Tribute: Buffalo Soldiers, Montford Point Marines,Tuskegee Airmen, U.S.S. Mason Crew

I found some interesting drawings on three groups of African American Soldiers that belatedly received recognition in mainstream media. They depict images of three Medal of Honor Groups:  Buffalo Soldiers, Montford Point Marines and Tuskegee Airmen. Also included was a portrait of the U.S.S. Mason ship and Sailor. The Mason was a Navy ship that had an all Black crew who received recommendations as a Destroyer Escort during World War II.

Now, in searching for pictures to accompany my posts, I encounter lots of artwork along with actual photos. These particular drawings I thought were interesting because it demonstrates that the person who commissioned them obviously knows their military history. Truthfully, until last week I did not have knowledge of the U.S.S Mason being an all Black WWII Navy ship.

Some might take offense that the images are on tobacco products, but the fact remains there is a segment of the population that smokes pipes. I am not endorsing any products but merely showing the artistic rendering. Furthermore, many men, including my father, smoked cigarettes and pipes during this time period. It was common for cigarettes brands such as Lucky Strikes to be distributed to service personnel. Photos and films show cigarettes dangling from the mouths of Soldiers.

Others might think back to an era when Black faces were used to sell products in a way that was demeaning and reinforced negative stereotypes. Examples would be Sambo and Aunt Jemima with a kerchief on her head (the scarf has been replaced with relaxed hair since the 90's) and the Gold Dust Twins.

 In countries outside of the United States, products romanticize the slavery/minstrel era, with ebony skin caricatures emblazoned on the packaging to sell items such as flour and candy. I have seen these products in American markets that import these goods. Every once in a while a foreign company or media will roll out extremely controversial imagery. Usually there is public outcry and the offending image is removed with a quick apology.

Yet for some reason in the U.S., we still have Uncle Ben's Rice and the Cream of Wheat gentlemen; non-threatening, ready to comply Negro servants in grocery stores. Newer images introduced that are in poor taste are challenged; social media erupts into a frenzy.

Back to the company that has the artwork of the African American Soldiers and Sailors: Montford Point Marines, Tuskegee Airmen, Buffalo Soldiers, and the U.S.S. Mason crew. It appears that the artwork is in tribute. Clearly, these Soldiers represent strength and intelligence. This particular company has a cross section of people and themes printed on their products. Some examples would be the September 11th First Responders, Architecture, and various Geographical locations. I think a savvy consumer purchasing their artisan brand would appreciate the background knowledge and gain some insight on the imagery.

Sources: All photos from Cornell & Diehl, Inc.

According to the company website, the Montford Point Marines was fourth in a series honoring African American Soldiers. I know in the 90's, there were companies that created Tuskegee Airmen paraphernalia and Negro Baseball League gear. In fact, my father wore some of the gear. The Negro Baseball League (1920-1950) existed before American Major League Baseball became integrated. So time will tell. Art sparks interest and dialogue. Don't you agree?

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